Posted in Let's Talk About

Let’s Talk About Positive Self-Talk

Lately, I’ve been made aware of this thing called positive self-talk.  I had a vague idea that it is basically saying thank you to your brain for acknowledging fears or flaws and then reassuring it that there isn’t a problem after all, but through researching it today I’ve discovered that it is a little different and maybe more complicated than that.  It’s actually reprogramming your brain to stop saying negative things about yourself, and replacing those thoughts with more positive ones.

On Psychology Today Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. writes the following:

Each of us has a set of messages that play over and over in our minds. This internal dialogue, or personal commentary, frames our reactions to life and its circumstances. One of the ways to recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy is to intentionally fill our thoughts with positive self-talk. 

Too often, the pattern of self-talk we’ve developed is negative. We remember the negative things we were told as children by our parents, siblings, or teachers. We remember the negative reactions from other children that diminished how we felt about ourselves. Throughout the years, these messages have played over and over in our minds, fueling our feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and hopelessness. 

One of the most critical avenues we use in therapy with those suffering from depression is to identify the source of these messages and then work with the person to intentionally “overwrite” them. If a person learned as a child he was worthless, we show him how truly special he is. If while growing up a person learned to expect crises and destructive events, we show her a better way to anticipate the future. 

You can access his full article here.

He encourages us to write down some of the negative thoughts that we have in our heads and then try to counter act them with  “positive truths.”  It’s important that you be honest about the positive things you tell yourself for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you don’t want to delude yourself into thinking that nothing is wrong when there actually is a problem, and secondly because you have to be able to actually believe what you are saying about yourself.

So how do we walk that tightrope between acknowledging what is wrong and being positive about it?  Polly Campbell from Spirituality & Health has some ideas.  

1. Listen Critically to Your Inner Critic

In high-pressure situations self-talk is often relentless and critical, says Ethan Kross, PhD, the laboratory director of the Emotion & Self-Control Lab at the University of Michigan. Instead of thinking deliberately and logically, our inner voices are stoked by emotion, and that influences everything from how we talk to ourselves to our behaviors and beliefs, attitudes, and habits.

So your first step is to listen critically to what you are saying to yourself—and how you are saying it. When your inner voices start running amok with words of disdain and discouragement, pause the conversation as you consider ways to change it.

2. Create Psychological Distance from Yourself 

Using first-person phrasing, such as “why am I so stressed?” or “how can I do better?” may increase feelings of shame or anxiety. 

Instead, Kross suggests using your own name or a second- or third-person pronoun when referring to your situation. Asking yourself, “Why are you feeling so stressed?” is one way to create the psychological distance you need to regulate emotion and be able to lessen your discomfort rather than add to it.

As Kross explains, “People who use their own name or ‘you’ begin to think of the task more as an interesting challenge rather than as a threat.” 

3. Fit Your Conversation to Your Goal

You are talking to yourself, so consider where you ultimately want to go. Hatzigeorgiadis’s research indicates that different types of self-talk work best for specific goals. 

Instructional self-talk like “shoulders back” or “keep the left arm straight” or “temper the eggs before mixing” work best to improve technique. 

Motivational self-talk such as “you’ve got this,” or “you can do it,” “keep going,” can help with confidence, strength, or endurance.

4. Treat Yourself as a Friend

 Demeaning, disparaging, or negative self-talk is only going to amp up your stress and hold you back. Instead, speak compassionately to yourself—just as you would to a friend. 

Rescript negative messages to include a positive spin. “I am not good at this” can be changed to “Relax. You are prepared for this.” 
“I don’t know what to say” can be rescripted to “Remember to smile and ask good questions.”

5. Say, “I Don’t,” instead of “I Can’t”

Several experiments by Vanessa Patrick, a professor of marketing at the University of Houston, found that people using the phrase “I don’t” to resist temptation fared better for longer than those who said “I can’t.” Saying “I can’t” communicates limitation or constraint. Saying “I don’t” demonstrates that you are in charge of your thoughts and behaviors, and that is a powerful reminder that will help you prevail.

Try it for yourself and feel the difference.

“I can’t miss my workouts” versus “I don’t miss my workouts.”

“I can’t buy these shoes until payday” versus “I don’t buy shoes until payday.”

“I can’t eat dessert” versus “I don’t eat dessert.”

Her full article is linked here.

Above all the key to changing your inner monologue from negative to positive is repetition.  This article (click here) on suggests that you repeat your positive self-talk at least once a day for fifteen minutes, preferably first thing in the morning and just before bed.  It also suggests that if you have a hard time saying it out loud to yourself, you may try recording it so that you can play it back to yourself.  This method may even prove more effective than saying it every time, though the article did not supply any research to back up that claim.

Well then, since I am still really struggling with my self worth issues, this seems like an excellent place to start, so I’m going to give it a shot.  I’ll post my list later on today, so you can have a real world example of how it’s done, and I will keep you all updated as I try to follow through with this plan.

As always, feel free to leave any advice or personal experiences in the comments.  Thanks again for reading, and I hope you all have a pleasant day.  



Hi, my name is Jen, and I am a bisexual, bipolar thirty something woman, with OCD and SAD. I love to write, draw, and take pictures. I also have a passion for how the human mind works, and I love studying the effects our biology and environment have on our psychological makeup.

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